'Frasier' star, Chicago theater staple Mahoney dies at 77
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"Frasier" star and Chicago theater veteran John Mahoney, the British-born actor who called Oak Park home, has died.
He was 77.
Mahoney, a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company for 39 years, was in hospice when he died Sunday due to complications from cancer, according to a statement from the theater. He made his final stage appearance there last fall in "The Rembrandt."
While he appeared in numerous Chicago area theater productions over the years, Mahoney was best known for playing cranky Martin Crane -- father of Kelsey Grammer's title character -- on the NBC sitcom "Frasier" from 1993 to 2004. The role earned him two Emmy nominations. Recently, he made guest appearances on TV's "Hot in Cleveland" and "Foyle's War."
Despite his success in Hollywood, the Oak Park resident remained committed to theater, specifically Chicago theater. And he embodied the city's muscular, no-frills acting style.
"It was a true privilege to work with him ... He was truly great," said BJ Jones, artistic director for Skokie's Northlight Theatre where Mahoney's credits included "Better Late," "A Life" and "The Outgoing Tide."
A longtime friend and collaborator, Jones last directed Mahoney in 2014's "Chapatti." In a 2014 interview with this newspaper, Mahoney characterized his work with Jones as his best.
"He gave us a tremendous gift with his artistry," said Jones, who described Mahoney's performances as heroic.
"There were times when he dealt with health issues and he would power through so bravely, because he would rather be on stage in front of an audience eight times a week than in front of a camera," Jones said.
Jones said being a star never mattered to Mahoney, who earned a 1986 Tony Award for his performance in John Guare's "The House of Blue Leaves" and whose film career included roles in the Chicago-set thriller "Primal Fear," as well as "Say Anything ...," "Barton Fink" and "The American President."
"He was more crazy about being an actor," Jones said. "He'd be so jazzed about the connection he had with an audience."
Steppenwolf canceled an opening night performance of "You Got Older" Monday and issued a statement on Facebook. "John was a beloved member of our Steppenwolf family who was known for his extraordinary kindness, generosity of spirit and quick smile," the statement read. "He performed in more than 30 Steppenwolf productions -- from his breakthrough role in 'Orphans' in 1985 to most recently 'The Rembrandt' this past September. John's impact on this institution, on Chicago theatre, and the world of arts and entertainment is great and will endure."
Jones remembered his friend as a sweet, generous man who routinely treated the entire Northlight cast and crew to dinner, during which they all swapped stories.
"He was an actor down to his core, but above all of that he was just a human being," said Jones. "Such a mensch."
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.